3 Reasons Back Problems Can Be Difficult To Diagnose

Category: Back Pain | Author: Stefano Sinicropi


Before we can help a patient treat their back pain, we first need to understand what’s going on inside their body, and oftentimes this is easier said than done. Diagnosing a specific back injury is much more difficult than testing for other conditions, like the presence of an infection by drawing a blood sample, for example. In today’s blog, we share three big reasons why getting to the root of your spine troubles can be so difficult.

Why Diagnosing Back Pain Is So Difficult

Here’s a look at three challenges patients and providers face when trying to pinpoint a back pain cause:

  1. Similar Symptoms – One of the biggest obstacles doctors face when trying to diagnose a problem on symptoms and physical exam alone is that a lot of conditions present with the same symptoms. A herniated disc, pinched nerve, degenerative disc disease or a spinal fracture all can involve localized or shooting pain, numbness or difficulty standing or walking, so it’s tough to know exactly what’s going on just by listening to symptoms and seeing how patients respond to certain physical tests. It helps to give the doctor an idea of what might be going on, but it’s tough to know for sure because the spine is so complex.
  2. Limited Test Information – When doctors conduct more hands-on diagnostic tests, it can still be tough for them to know exactly what’s going on. Nerve blocks can provide false positives, x-rays may overlook soft tissue injuries, and you may need to jump through some insurance hoops in order to get approval for an MRI. These diagnostic tests can be very helpful when looking for certain conditions, which is why they are often implemented after physical exams and listening to the patient, but they don’t always provide perfect answers.
  3. Patient Lifestyle Factors – Lifestyle factors can play a huge role in the development of certain spinal issues, but patients aren’t always open and honest with their practitioner about their lifestyle choices and how they could be impacting their health. For example, if a patient tells their doctor they exercise regularly and are a non-smoker when in actuality they are mostly sedentary and smoke a pack a week, this will throw the provider off the scent of what’s really going on. Your doctor isn’t there to judge you, so be an open book. When they ask about your exercise, diet, activity levels and posture care, tell them the truth. Otherwise, you’ll only be hurting yourself as you make it harder for the doctor to find the underlying cause of your spine pain and the best ways to treat it.

Spine pain can be hard to diagnose, but we do everything in our power to find the root cause and develop a personalized treatment plan tailored to your individual needs. If you’re sick of dealing with back pain that just won’t go away, or you finally want to get to the bottom of your back pain, reach out to Dr. Sinicropi and his experienced medical team today.

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